We started following @filipchaeder on Instagram not too long ago, and we loved his product design skills so much we asked him to contribute a post. As we expected, he has some great ideas for making beautiful prototype sketches.
As a freelancing industrial designer, time is often of great importance when rendering out my designs. I want to go over a set of simple tips and tricks you can utilize to speed up your render process without losing any quality. I will focus mainly on the final render of the design, but many of the things suggested in this post can be applied to any stage of the sketching process.
1. UI Placement vs. Hand Travel
An often overlooked aspect of speeding up your sketch process is the UI placement. I’m right handed, so naturally my hand will be placed to the right of my tablet. Placing all your utilities on the right side of the screen reduces the need for you to reach across the canvas when you want to access your tool bars. This might sound like a minor improvement to your workflow, but if you think about how many times you change tools this will have a huge impact on the overall render time by significantly reducing the hand travel across the screen. Another plus is that it’s more ergonomically correct since your arm can be in basically the same position during your entire drawing session.
2. Be Proactive with Layer Structuring
One of the huge benefits of sketching digitally is the freedom to change things deep in the rendering process. Making these changes as easy to implement as possible is key to making a quick, great-looking render. There is not a single render I’ve done that hasn’t undergone some changes at the last second.
Your layers should be structured in a way that makes it easy for you to track what lines and features are placed in what layer. The layer tab can easily get clustered with layers after some time, and not naming or structuring them in a way that you understand will make it very hard to find the right one. Another way of making it easier to find what you are looking for is grouping sketches into folders like in the example below.
3. Envision the Final Image
Another big benefit of sketching digitally is that you can do much of the composition work at the end of the render — in contrast to sketching on a paper where choosing your composition before starting is preferred. The key is to have the different views of the product separate from each other, then you can move them around freely to create that perfect composition. That being said, it’s good to have a rough layout in advance. Choosing the wrong perspective for your sketch can make it hard to compose at the end. You can try to emulate compositions from your favorite designers, or you can make thumbnails with your design like in the example below.
4. Starting Off Right (or Left)
The first thing I normally sketch once I have a general idea of the design are the different views — side view, front view, top view, etc. This gives me a greater feel for the final design, and it’s much easier to go into perspective view once you have every detail down. That’s why you often find one of these views in my compositions.
The side view is quite unique as it’s probably the easiest view to lay down while still giving the audience a lot of information about the design (and it works with a surprisingly large amount of different products). In many cases, it’s the only view you need to show the audience for them to get a complete understanding of the design and its functions. A rule of thumb is to not create more views than needed — one view from each side at a maximum. Creating more views of the same things is time consuming, and it doesn’t give the viewer any more information about the product.
5. Saving Time with Symmetry
A lot of products are somewhat symmetrical. The symmetry tool can save you a lot of time when sketching these kinds of products. It’s not ideal for doing perspective sketches, but for those side and front views, it’s perfect. You can make the sketch look less artificial by adding unique details on one side after you’ve created the symmetrical lines.
6. Perspective Is Hard (Make It Easier)
One of the most time consuming aspect of rendering might be perspective. Having a perspective view of your product is often the most persuasive method of displaying your design as it gives the viewer a lot of information about the product, and will come off as impressive if done right. However, if the perspective is clearly wrong, it can leave the viewer questioning the design. There are ways of creating close to a perfect perspective without having to pull your hair out in the process.
The first tip would be to use the perspective tool that Sketchbook Pro offers. This is a quick way of creating one-, two- and even three-point perspective.
7. Another Perspective Cheat
Another way of getting near perfect perspective is to create a simple 3D object (if you have access to a 3D program that is), and use it as an underlay. You should be careful using this method since it can have an opposite effect if you start adding to much detail to the 3D model as this can be very time consuming. It’s often faster to just add the details in the sketch. I usually just make simple shapes like cubes and cylinders to quickly get into the rendering process.
8. Become a Surgeon with the Stroke
If your design has a lot of curvature, getting those curves to really live up to their potential can be tough. In the example below you can see a toaster render, and although it’s based on a rectangle shape, it’s hard to find any straight lines in the design. To accomplish the clean line work I used the Steady Stroke feature. Using this can save you from a lot of hassle and redrawn lines when working on those curves.
It probably goes without saying, but if your design is based on straight lines, use the line tool.
9. The Magic Wand
When it’s time for shading, there are few tools I value above the selection tools. Using color fields and the magic wand you can easily isolate the specific area you want to shade. This saves you the trouble of staying inside of the lines or using the eraser like a mad man. In the example below you can see me creating a simple cube design, then applying different shades of green on point “3” using the color bucket. I then used the magic wand to select each side separately and started shading the sketch with dark shadows and white highlight.
10. Creating the Perfect Ellipse
If you’ve ever tried to draw a perfect ellipse with a regular pen and paper you’ve probably experienced true struggle and desperation. Thankfully, the Ellipse tool in SketchBook makes this process a walk in the park. I rarely (if ever) create a freehand ellipses anymore, and the only reason behind this is that it’s just so much faster to create it using this tool. Below you can see a design with a lot of ellipses, this process would have taken a lot longer doing it completely by hand.
More from Filip
These are truly some great tips for sketching products and prototypes — or even just quick studies that get you to a more refined drawing. Follow Filip Chaeder on Instagram for more beautiful designs like these.